Larry Ellison, OracleLarry Ellison, Oracle

Some 50 000 delegates, from 123 countries, gathered in San Francisco in early October for Oracle OpenWorld. The event featured more than 2 500 sessions covering the software giant’s burgeoning portfolio, but was dominated by a handful of major announcements in very specific focus areas: cloud, hardware, database and social media.

Top of the agenda at OpenWorld was a series of cloud announcements. Last year, Oracle announced the Oracle Cloud, a strategy to move all its business applications into software as a service (SaaS) models.

“Our mission is very simple; to bring Oracle’s enterprise technology – our database and our middleware – to any customer, any user, any partner anywhere in the world through the Internet browser,” said , executive VP of product development at Oracle.

The company’s existing software and platform as a service offerings have also been extended with infrastructure offerings. The company has rolled out data centres in the US, Europe and Asia, with more planned (but nothing confirmed for Africa). Capacity will be sold directly to customers, or through ISVs, using Oracle’s hardware and software stack.

Oracle also announced “private cloud” solutions for customers wanting to make use of cloud services with on-premise hardware to allay concerns over data jurisdiction or . The company’s cloud management software will allow customers to move applications seamlessly between private and public clouds.

“In our first year of delivering cloud services, we discovered that it wasn’t enough simply to be an application provider and platform provider,” said Oracle CEO . “People who wanted to take cloud computing seriously, as an alternative to traditional on-premises computing, needed a combination of SaaS and PaaS, but also IaaS.”

On the hardware side, Oracle announced successors to its Exadata appliances. The new Exadata X3 is intended to load entire datasets into memory, offering huge speed increases over disk-based servers. The X3 boasts 22TB of flash cache storage. Oracle’s data compression technology can achieve 10:1 ratios, meaning 220TB of data can be loaded into a single rack, achieving 1.5 million I/O operations per second. “If you thought the old Exadatas were fast,” Ellison quipped, “you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Despite the upgrade, the X3 is priced the same as its predecessor, the X2. Some of the software- enabled upgrades, such as write caching, will be available to older models.

The Exadata X3, basically a 19-inch rack crammed with flash memory, storage and Intel x86 processors, is one of several Oracle computing appliances. Together with the Exalogic unit, designed for data analysis, the X3 is not only intended for deployment at large customers, it will also power Oracle’s own data centres for cloud customers, including on-premise private cloud solutions. “If you buy an Oracle Private Cloud, what we install is Exadata X3 and Exalogic,” Ellison said.

Oracle’s flagship database has received its first major upgrade in five years, with version 12c (for “cloud”) due for commercial release next year. 12c brings virtualisation capabilities to the database, offering a multi-tenant database framework, which pools resources (such as RAM, storage and processors) among multiple client databases.

“Database consolidation is hard. Our customers are under pressure to reduce the number of servers, consolidate databases and schemas, and reduce staff,” said , senior VP of database server technologies. Oracle Database 12c aggregates functions such as patching, updating and backups, while allowing any database to be recovered to an historic snapshot, Mendelsohn said.

The multi-tenant approach is aimed at enterprises looking to consolidate databases and servers, in particular large enterprises and ISVs selling database-driven applications to downstream customers.

The updated database includes a number of enhancements, such as database-level redaction to ensure data privacy is enforced outside of the application layer. Management and performance tuning have also been updated: Mendelsohn demonstrated a live “heatmap” of a database, identifying less-active data segments, which can be aggressively compressed or archived on the fl y.

Social networking was also a common theme among the many announcements at OpenWorld. Oracle now offers a range of products within its Social Relationship Management Suite, integrating data from social networks into CRM, ERP and other applications. The company is also providing social media-style interfaces to its products, allowing users to interact and share data in a dashboard environment similar to common social sites like Facebook or Twitter.